An American Airlines flight from North Carolina to NYC got caught in last night's brief but intense storm and was forced to make an emergency landing at JFK airport after being struck by lightning. The plane, carrying 55 passengers and four crew members, was destined for LaGuardia but was rerouted to JFK after the pilot determined that their scheduled route was just a smidge too stormy.

The plane was shaken by serious turbulence shortly after 6 p.m., and was struck by lightning soon after. The Daily News reports that the lightning caused "communications issues."

"There was a flash of light right outside the first row window on the left hand side of the plane and then a tremendous bang," one passenger told CBS2. "It just lit up blue inside the plane."

Another passenger told the station, "We knew. Like we were up in the front so we knew immediately what it was."

"There was a flash of light, a big explosion, the plane dipped about a hundred feet, I don't know, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster," passenger Lou Luca told ABC. "Soiled my pants a little bit, it was bad!"

Sounds like a fun flight, but thankfully no injuries were reported, and the plane landed safely. But it was held on the runway for roughly 30 minutes as a safety crew inspected the plane.

Every plane in the U.S. commercial fleet is "struck lightly by lightning more than once each year," according to Scientific American, which has more calming information on what to expect if and when your plane gets struck by lightning:


The last confirmed commercial plane crash in the U.S. directly attributed to lightning occurred in 1967, when lightning caused a catastrophic fuel tank explosion. Since then, much has been learned about how lightning can affect airplanes. As a result, protection techniques have improved. Today, airplanes receive a rigorous set of lightning certification tests to verify the safety of their designs.

Although passengers and crew may see a flash and hear a loud noise if lightning strikes their plane, nothing serious should happen because of the careful lightning protection engineered into the aircraft and its sensitive components. Initially, the lightning will attach to an extremity such as the nose or wing tip. The airplane then flies through the lightning flash, which reattaches itself to the fuselage at other locations while the airplane is in the electric "circuit" between the cloud regions of opposite polarity. The current will travel through the conductive exterior skin and structures of the aircraft and exit off some other extremity, such as the tail. Pilots occasionally report temporary flickering of lights or short-lived interference with instruments.

Most aircraft skins consist primarily of aluminum, which conducts electricity very well. By making sure that no gaps exist in this conductive path, the engineer can assure that most of the lightning current will remain on the exterior of the aircraft. Some modern aircraft are made of advanced composite materials, which by themselves are significantly less conductive than aluminum. In this case, the composites contain an embedded layer of conductive fibers or screens designed to carry lightning currents.